August Prayer Partner: Reflecting on One Year of Welcoming Afghans
This time last year, as the US military was nearing the end of its 20-year war in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters were swooping in to reclaim their suffocating control. The US embassy in Kabul was urging all US citizens to evacuate immediately, before closing its doors indefinitely. Military veterans drew comparisons to the fall of Saigon, and the world stood stunned as throngs of desperate Afghans circled the Kabul airport for days on end, waiting for a chance to get on a potentially lifesaving US military flight out. They clung to the sides of airplanes; they lifted up their babies over barbed-wire fences in a scene not too different from Moses being sent adrift by his mother.
As tens of thousands of evacuated Afghans were being vetted at US military bases overseas, I saw an unprecedented surge in interest from US churches and Christians wanting to help. In Phoenix, a top refugee-resettlement destination where we received about 1,500 Afghans from that evacuation, I lead a network of Christians walking in relationship with our refugee neighbors. Having been in this refugee-ministry space for 19 years now, I can’t remember another time when the Church showed such concern for people fleeing persecution. That concern has waned somewhat, one year on, but I’ve also seen amazing fruit–yes, I’ll use the word transformation–among Christians who have embraced our Afghan neighbors and stuck with them.
I’ve watched skeptical American Christian women shed tears of empathy and wrap in mother-like hugs several Afghan female college students who were evacuated last year, after sitting face-to-face and listening to the young women share about their lives and beloved home country.
Yesterday, I heard one long-time church planter describe the admiration she has for her Afghan friends who call her “Mom.” Her own Christian faith is being strengthened through relationship with her Muslim friends. “God is so big!” she said with a broad, joyful smile.
I’m seeing many believers reconsider their vantage point of this crisis, in light of the Scriptures. I mean in no way to disregard the deep suffering and trauma of so many people, but as Christians we know that God is not done yet. Certainly, his ways are infinitely higher than ours, and we trust that he is making all things new.
Can you remember another time in your life when some 80,000 people from one of the most closed countries in the world suddenly were uprooted and brought within reach of our local churches–and the government paid for it? Despite the challenges–which are serious and many–the Lord is building his Church through all of this, drawing both Afghans and Americans to himself, and making his name great–just as he promised. Let us not grow weary but proceed in faith and love.
Will you pray with me as we reflect on this past year and the work yet to be done?
For the successful, healthy integration of our new Afghan neighbors throughout the US: Virtually all of them have left behind loved ones. Survivor’s guilt, recent trauma, and culture shock can make life here difficult. Pray also for the receiving communities that they would treat their Afghan neighbors with kindness and respect.
For those left behind: Ethnic and religious minorities, women and girls, people who worked with the US military, and other targeted groups are especially in need of safety and the chance to leave the country. Pray for all for all people in Afghanistan now living under the Taliban’s oppressive rule amid economic disaster and drought.
For those applying for Humanitarian Parole: In the past year, over 46,000 Humanitarian Parole applications have been submitted to the US government on behalf of at-risk Afghans, in an attempt to get them to safety, and less than 1 percent have been approved–most are yet unresolved. I will boldly ask you to pray for Nadima and her four children–a family very close to my heart (we submitted their applications last October and haven’t heard back).
For the US government to pass legislation such as the Afghan Adjustment Act allowing those paroled into the US to apply for permanent legal status.
I encourage you to join the monthly Evangelical Immigration Table virtual prayer meeting next Monday, August 15, at 4 PM ET/3 PM CT/2 PM MT/1 PM PT (click here to add to your calendar) to join in prayer with others and/or to set aside some time for prayer in your schedule.
Executive Director, Phoenix Refugee Connections [www.phxrc.org]